My tongue is in my hand…

Racing Fuel

Posted on: July 13, 2009

Clay always apologized for the Monte Carlo. And for Saturday nights at the dirt bike track. I didn’t mind either one. But Clay played by the rules, and as a rule, I suppose teenage girls don’t want to ride in old beat up cars and go to dirt bike races. I don’t really know, I’ve never fully played by any rules like that. So it was fine with me.

I like the smell of racing fuel, because it makes me 15 again. I liked riding in his grandfather’s old Chevy truck, because it reminded my of my grandfather’s old Chevy truck. I liked stopping at that old do-it-yourself car wash in Mint Hill late at night to spray off the truck and the bike.

And you know, it’s not like all we did was ride around in old vehicles and go to dirt bike races. We used to hang out after school at his house, when it wasn’t football season, or track season. We used to drive out to Steak and Shake in Pineville; I loved going down highway 485 back then, it was all so open, the sky was always splattered with sunset colors on our way down, and it was usually  moonlit on our way back.

He used to make dinner sometimes, Chicken Parmesan. It was just him and his dad for a long time growing up, so he wasn’t opposed to doing domestic stuff…it was just the stuff of living.

After football games, he usually just hung out with me instead of the group, I don’t really know why, but that’s what we did. Well, there was one time we got about 9 people in his dad’s Grand Prix to go to Ci-Ci’s Pizza with everyone, and one of those people definitely counted for two.

We spent a lot of Saturday nights on my couch, watching MADtv with my sister Rachel. Once, we decided to get hot chocolate and donuts from Krispy Kreme. We seriously ate like 3 cream filled ones a piece and were sugar buzzed all night.

A few times, we parked the truck in a field near his house, laid a sleeping bag in the truck bed, looked at the stars (and stuff).

He had a tattoo of a dragon on his hip. Once, on April Fool’s day, he told me that he had it expanded to go across and fill up his back, and I completely believed him.

Our favorite place to go out was King Wah, for Chinese. The owner, Sonny, was so funny, asking if you wanted ocean view by the lobster tank. Or joking about ordering a Big Mac. It really is too bad that place burned down and became some kind of Latino store or something.

He knew I loved Italian though, and took me to little Italian places lots of times too. Once, he heard about a Thai place across town and took me there. Towards the end, I think he thought he was boring me, so we started going to Hockey games and concerts.

We went to the beach one year, with his family. This prompted an “I guess we’ll put you on birth control” comment from my father, which both infuriated me and embarrassed me beyond measure.

We went to each other’s churches and youth groups, we went to family birthdays and holidays. Both of us lived 2 minutes from our churches. Both of our churches were named for our families. Both of us were really close to our aunts, uncles, and cousins.

On our first date, he picked me up and took me to a movie at the Arboreutm, we saw Patch Adams. It was the week after Valentines day and he had a rose for me in the car. Afterward, we went to Caribou for coffee (it was white hot chocolates, actually). I’ve loved that place since that day. On the way home, it started snowing. Snow is so rare here, it seemed like some kind of sign.

The next day he asked me to a basketball game at UNCC. We got lost, but got there. I think, after that, it was a done deal.

The Christmas we were breaking up, he gave me a perfect ring. It was white gold, a slender band that split in the front to form a little heart, and in the middle was  a little diamond. It was exactly something I would pick out for myself. It was such a contrast to what he gave me the first year, this big gold chain…I still have that ring. I still wear that ring sometimes.

Clay and I were always doing things for each other, to be sweet…leaving notes, buying things, surprises, that kind of stuff. I wrote him a lot of letters, a lot of poems. I made him a box that had a bunch of quotes all over it that he could keep the letters in. A lot of the quotes had something to do with worrying. He worried a lot. I think there were some Bible verses too, and song lyrics. The only thing I remember that I put on there for sure though was the quote “Ain’t no use putting up your umbrella til it rains” (or something like that). Oh yea, and I remember a Mariah Carey lyric “Thank God I found you, I was lost without you, my every wish and every dream has now become reality.”

He did say that I helped him relax. He told me that he had learned that from me after we broke up. The way he said it though made me sad, like maybe he just stopped caring. But I was glad to think maybe he didn’t think only bad things of me now.

Clay was a good guy. A good boyfriend. A good person overall. I regret so deeply the way we fell apart right there at the end. I just didn’t know how to handle myself the right way. I loved him the best I could, but I knew it wasn’t enough. We talked about marriage and I knew I could marry him, but it wouldn’t have been fair to him. And I guess not to me either.

That’s the best I can come up with, I’ve thought about it over and over. I tried to call him, before he moved, just to say I’m sorry for the way I handled it, or more, didn’t handle it. And congratulations on his marriage. I couldn’t find his number. And I couldn’t get the numbers I had memorized from so long ago organized the right way.

We never fought. Even at the end, I don’t think you could ever really say we fought. We hurt, we disagreed, we misunderstood, but we didn’t fight.

I think he thought if he did all the right things the right way we would stay together. But he did. He really tried his very best, he always made an effort. And we had it good, we really did. I probably never fully appreciated all his time, all his effort, all his Pep Boys paychecks that went towards date nights.

Yea, he was late for dates on a regular basis. Yea, he still carried a condom around even though I told him I wanted to wait (can’t blame the boy for holding on to hope, right? And it’s not like we didn’t regularly run the rest of the bases…). Yea, sometimes he would interrupt my “deep” thoughts to comment on the motor on a lawnmower…Those things annoyed me, but I don’t know, I guess I probably over analyzed what those things meant. But I’m an analyzer, so that’s what I do.

He was pretty straightforward and set in his beliefs and standards, and they were probably a little more “good ol’ boy” than mine…and there was the hint of the bigger concern in the back of my mind…Clay fits. Everybody likes Clay and Clay has a specific place to fit. He is always working toward that place.

Clay is a good solid Oak. He is strong and steady, good for support and shelter. Everyone wants someone  like that around. He branches out, slowly but surely, till he is tall and full. He can do or be many things to or for many, but he is exactly what he is, exactly where he is, and that is exactly right, exactly as it should be for an Oak.

I am the leaves and the wind. I am the water and the sun and the chlorophyll and the CO2. I’m like Clay, part of the same big picture, but I wasn’t enough like Clay to promise the promise he deserved. I fit many places, and do many things, but I do not have one place to be, I do not have one way to be.

But I never said it that way to him. I never said it at all really. He had the final word. I nodded silently in agreement over the phone because I had been painstakingly considering saying the same words to him…”I just can’t do this anymore”.  And he tried afterward to imitate what a friendship may be for two people who’d been as close as us…but it was too soon. I couldn’t find the line, so I didn’t really try the friendship. I didn’t know how.

But now, now I wonder how much any of that matters to him anymore. He may have thought it didn’t matter, because of how things went, because of Jason. But it did. It all did. It, quite obviously, still does.

I don’t know why it sticks out in my mind the most, but the smell of old Chevrolets and racing fuel always mean the same thing. It means I’m 15. I’m in the middle. I’ve got the wind in my hair. I’m inches from the most love I’ve ever known, and I’ve yet to consider that our time’s bound to run out; we’re just steady into the the night, side by side.

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3 Responses to "Racing Fuel"

… whew. I’m don’t want to touch this post… I have felt… i dunno I guess… invasive even reading it. I’ve just been inside something massively intimate and I… I don’t want to move.

I don’t know what to say.

It felt good to write this, it is very intimate, but it was also so long ago that I finally feel like there is enough distance to say these things, to process it this way…plus I really wanted this written out, it’s too good to leave it strictly to memory. It’s a great piece of my life to remember, and an important relationship, definitive. And I guess still a little unsettled.

I don’t know if it’s a gender difference, but I prefer to read intimate things…anything where you are in the person’s real (or fictionally real) thoughts and feelings…not that it’s all laid out stupidly (because that’s annoying and dull), but that it’s like you’re being let in on something…

I don’t often hand things to people to read (now that I blog), but when I would, guys would always push the paper back to me if it seemed like it was actually personal, not just a piece of writing that I created (which is still personal, but you know, I guess it’s under the guise of being a creation, and there’s the possibility that it’s fictionalized) … but you could hand a girl your journal and she’d read the whole damn thing immediately, and then ask you all about it, and want to know if you’ve got anything else to supplement it (letters, pictures, emails, etc)….lol. Of course, that’s just my perspective, it may not apply to all and it may be something other than gender that does this, but that’s just my experience…

What’s really interesting though, is that my audience in my head is more male than female, sometimes exclusively male…

I’ve digressed so much…oh well, I’m sure you don’t mind

I think it’s the internal decision that intimate emotions are things to be handled with the most severe gentleness. Like paper eggshells.

I’ve always been that one who everyone tells the most intensely personal stories to and I will quietly listen and if there’s something to be helped in it I’ll most often help and it’s very good… like this.

I don’t know something about this post made that different. It’s a fantastic read it’s all brilliantly written and the return to racing fuel at the end brought the whole story full circle and just… fantastically done but I couldn’t shake the feeling that to speak about what I’d just read would be… invasive. As though I was dealing with something I knew absolutely nothing about and any assumptions… any conclusions I could render from what I just read would be so poorly founded.

This is different in some way. It’s beautiful and soulful and powerful. But it feels radioactive… as though you were carrying this one so close to you that for me to touch it (even in a comment I guess) would require me to move organs out of the way, pull back the folds of your heart and scribble on the inside.

I don’t know I guess I don’t know really what to make of myself having read this.

Brilliant though. I do reiterate that… brilliant.

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